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With Senate passage, bill to prevent shutdown goes to House

22 December, 2018, 07:47 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • Sen. Marco Rubio

The federal government took a major step toward criminal justice reform Tuesday night (Dec. 18) when the Senate approved legislation backed by a broad coalition that includes the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics entity.

The immediate next step for the bill: President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law by the end of the week.

Introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill added significant sentencing reform provisions to a prison reform bill passed earlier by the House.

The legislation's passage through Congress serves as a victory for President Trump, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, as well as many Republicans and Democrats. The bill eases sentences for drug offenders, gives judges more leeway to opt against mandatory minimum sentences, implements rehabilitative and vocational courses to minimum and low-risk prisoners and authorizes millions toward an expansion of post-prison services to help re-integrate inmates. It also reduces the life sentence for some drug offenders with three convictions, or "three strikes", to 25 years.

The bill also encourages prisoners to participate in programs created to reduce the risk of recidivism, with the reward being the accumulation of credits that can be used to gain an earlier release to a halfway house or home confinement to finish out their sentence.

Read the full story here. The president declared his support for the bill last month.

"These reforms to our criminal justice system will not only reduce recidivism and make communities safer, but they will help people into lives of goal", said outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan. And even if it passes, it won't affect anything but the federal prison system, which holds only about 10 percent of the US prison and jail population of 2.1 million.

Sasse another unexpected opponent of the bill worried that it would “release thousands of violent felons very early
ASSOCIATED PRESS Sasse another unexpected opponent of the bill worried that it would “release thousands of violent felons very early.”

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin took a victory lap Thursday after leading the charge on the First Step Act, which was created to overhaul Federal "tough-on-crime" prison and sentencing laws.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 32 percent of people in federal prisons and 40 percent of all people in jail in the United States have at least one disability.

Some Democrats had pushed for a more generous bill, and similar yet more expansive legislation under the Obama administration was scuttled by Republicans.

Prisoners also could get seven days of credit for good behavior each year of his or her sentence with this bill - with the credits being deducted from the sentence to allow for early release.

It's one of the biggest changes to our criminal justice system in a generation. The endorsing organizations stretch from the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for American Progress to a host of conservative groups, including the ERLC and other evangelical entities, Heritage Action, The American Conservative Union and FreedomWorks. "It will not solve long-standing problems with the criminal justice system ... but it does demonstrate we can work together to make the system more fair".

Besides, mass incarceration and the war on drugs was created over decades. A different version passed the House this year, so the House would have to pass the latest draft before it can be sent to Trump for his signature.

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